Can you put all-terrain tires on 2WD?

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Yes, its a good idea to put all-terrain tires on a 2WD (two-wheel drive) vehicle, as these tires are designed to provide good performance on a variety of surfaces, including pavement, dirt, gravel, and light muddy tracks. Though there are some drawbacks to consider as well.

Put all-terrain tires on 2WD
Time to swap all-terrain tires from 4WD to 2WD.

If you have a 2WD and you wish to go off-road with it (and I’m hoping it has a good ground clearance), then all-terrain tires can do wonders for you in terms of traction. Sure 4WD can help you out in some “sticky” situations, chances are you won’t find the need to use it on lighter terrains. Though if you are staying on roads mostly, it’s best to consider a more highway oriented tire that can bring you good enough grip, fuel/tread efficiency and comfort on pavements.

Benefits of all-terrain tires on 2WD

There are a lot of variables at play here. Let me break them down for you.

Improved off-road capabilities

With all-terrain tires, your 2WD ride would become more capable of crawling on various types of rugged terrains. As they are made of robust stone ejectors, wider grooves, a large tread depth and staggered shoulders along with thick sidewall lugs.

With stone ejectors and wider grooves, the tire’s tread get to be very self cleaning, evacuating all the stuff out, maintaining friction with the ground with rubber contact.

Moreover, the larger tread depth also helps in escaping out slightly deeper terrains, on mud, where the staggered shoulder lugs act as mud scoops.

The sidewall lugs provide ample footprint with lowered air pressure and these help the tire on soft sand and rock climbing.

Tough keep in mind, that all-terrain tires have a very wide range, and only the aggressive ones get to be “good” enough for these terrains.

And even on them, I’ve rated tires differently. For example, for mud, I’d consider Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac. And durability, you can’t get a better all-terrain tire, than BF Goodrich KO2.

You can check out the rest in my list of top A/T tires (and see what they are all rated for).

Superior Puncture Resistance

Ever wondered why all-terrain tires are harder to puncture? Well, that because the tread of these tires is usually reinforced with multiple layers of rubber and polymers, making it more robust to punctures, cuts, and other types of damage. These include aramid nanofiber and Kevlar compounds and these make the rubber what they call “chip/cut resistant”.

Internally, these tires have up to 2 cap plies of nylon, which cover the the 2 wide steel belts. All these 4 layers cover the central part of the tread.

And they sit on the polyester casing, which is also known as the cover or carcass, (think of it as the tire’s skeleton), and these protect the sidewalls form underneath.

Some tires have extra features which protect the sidewalls, like the Falken Wildpeak AT3w. This tire although offers just a common 2 ply polyester built (with 2 belts and nylon cap plies), the tire also offers 2 more layers of polyester running around the rim, protecting the sidewall and bead area.

And this way besides having good enough U shaped lugs on top, the tire has 4 layers inside protecting the sides.

Moreover, it also features heat diffusers which keeps its tread cooler, and with less heat generated the tire is less prone to blowout, and punctures.

All-Season Traction

Just like “all-season tires”, you get all weather capabilities with all-terrain tires as well.

These tires are capable of performing in summers where the dry traction is affected by much, and at the same time with their thermal adaptive rubber, they get to provide great snow traction as well. That’s why most of the all-terrain options have 3 peak mountain snowflake ratings.

These tires offers deep enough lugs and full depth sipes along with multiple notches, off-set edges and snow vices. All these bite in to the snow particles and provide ample traction.

Moreover, on some tires, you also get to have stud-able lugs, and with these, ice traction is enhanced.

Recommended: What’s the difference between All-Season and All-Terrain tire?

Drawbacks of putting all-terrain tires on a 2WD

Yes, there are some cons of putting all-terrain tires on 2wd as well, and these include limited comfort, faster wear, reduced fuel economy and compromised on-road grip. Let’s discuss them all.

Limited grip on roads

With wider gaps between the tread blocks, all-terrain tires limit the contact of it’s rubber with the road.

In the middle these gaps don’t allow the tire to have ample directional grip, slowing down acceleration times.

And on shoulders the larger tread voids create an inconsistent meet-up with the road limiting down the maximum speeds a tire can turn/curve on.

Moreover, with large tread depth, and a flexible tread (which all-terrain tires generally have), the blocks get to flex more, contributing to loss of energy and traction further.

The heavier the weight, the longer it would take to accelerate. And in case of all-terrain tires, with larger tread voids, the lugs get to have more pressure on them, which again also increases the flexing of the blocks, wasting energy, that would have otherwise consumed in to acceleration.

(Though with puncture resistance that come with it, I’d say these tires are still worth it).

So why are A/T tires heavier?

Well, all-terrain tires, have larger tread depth, so thicker lugs contribute to that. But their weight is mainly added by their thicker internal construction.

All-terrain tires typically have lower speed ratings as these tires tend to over/under steer with their heavier weight, and larger tread depth. And their grooves don’t allow the tread to make enough rubber to road contact, resulting in loss of directional grip.

That’s why these tires on average get to have S (112 mph) or T (118 mph) speed ratings, whereas on-road tires provide you with “V” (149 mph) or “Z” (over 149 mph).

Limited comfort

All-terrain tires basically has more number of plies in their internal structure, with 3 ply polyester casing, and 2 wide steel belts on top, further covered with 2 cap plies of nylon, these tires get to be pretty stiff. And despite having larger tread depth, they are not able to cushion the bumps in a better way, causing vibrations. Moreover, the aggressive tread pattern of lugs having large tread voids, make inconsistent contact with the road which also makes the ride bumpier.

All-terrain tires typically have more aggressive tread patterns than regular tires. With larger tread blocks and deeper grooves these tires have more space available for air to hit around producing noise.

Similarly, tread depth has a similar role to play here. The deeper the tread, the more the space to air particles to hit around produce noise.

And although all tires have pitch sequencing technologies (described below), they differ a lot form one another, where some are effective, while others are not able to dampen the noise levels properly.

Pitch sequencing happens when where various parts of the tread create different sound tones , and they cancel out each other, or at least try to. This is done by varying the geometry of the lugs form one another, in a very subtle way.

Recommended: Why all-terrain tires generate so much noise?

Extra tread and fuel usage

With extra weight, all-terrain tires generate more rolling resistance, and so they eat up more fuel.

This is because with heavier weight, the tread lugs have more pressure upon them. And since all-terrain tires have a balder design the weight gets distributed over less number of tread blocks. This adds to the force of the tread rubbing off the road causing faster wear and fuel consumption.

Basically with more weight on top, instead of rolling the tire as a whole, each lug wastes energy by flexing upon themselves, consuming extra fuel. That’s why tires having smaller tread depth provide better efficacy.

Summing Up

So overall, there are a lot of good things that come with putting an all-terrain tire on your 2 Wheel Drive (2WD), vehicle. Like you get amazing traction over a wide range of surfaces with self cleaning grooves.

You get off-road durability and all season traction, as most of these tires are very powerful and come with 3PMSF sever winter ratings.

Though keep in mind, that with heavier weight, the tire would eat up more fuel and wear faster. And on-road you would also get a less comfortable drive as well.

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